The Fox broadcast network, which suffered a prime-time ratings free-fall during the just completed TV season, has closed out its upfront advertising sales with its total haul falling short of last year's auction.
Despite its ratings woes, Fox was able to hike its ad rates by 5% to 7% for prime-time commercials for the 2013-14 television season, according to a person familiar with the negotiations. The News Corp. network secured commitments from advertisers totaling $1.75 billion to $1.8 billion, which represents about an 8% decline from its year-ago amount.
Ratings declines at all the broadcast networks seem to be taking a toll.
"Buyer demand has come in a bit weaker than last year with 'reported' pricing in the mid-single digits," Nomura Securities media analyst Michael Nathanson wrote in a report early Wednesday. He noted that "the underlying TV economy is not growing, while dollars are shifting out of broadcast and into cable."
Nonetheless, Fox has big hopes for a brighter season.
In February it will televise the biggest event of the year, the Super Bowl, and the network plans a dramatic overhaul of its longtime tentpole, "American Idol." The aging singing competition show dropped 20% in the ratings this year as the new kid on the block, NBC's "The Voice," hit the ratings high notes.